Non-Teaching

A brief re-appearance! (and some observations on “Theme” days/weeks/months)

…but don’t expect it to be very prominent or noteworthy. I apologize for my recent bout of falling-off-the-map-itis, but the business of grad school and the push toward the end of the school year has converged into the perfect storm that has forced me to withdraw temporarily from doing much extraneous writing here.

Nevertheless, on my way to work I learned that it is officially “Road Work Awareness Week,” (also labeled in some places as “Work Zone Awareness Week”), which seems to mark the bizarre culmination of an obsession with creating themed days, weeks, and months.

Certainly it is important to pay attention to road work this week, but isn’t it always important to pay attention to road work for the safety of those doing the work, but also for your own safety, and for the self-interest of not getting ticketed? It seems like this theme week ultimately minimizes the importance of always paying attention when driving, as the subtext becomes the other 51 weeks of the year when apparently it isn’t so important to pay attention to road work.

While a theme of road work strikes me as immediately more absurd than many of these theme days/weeks/months, the same subtext occurs in all sorts of other venues as well. The most glaring examples might be Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month, which bring out all sorts of public celebrations and recognitions, only to let those emphases fade into the background once the calendar needs to be changed over. The design of most textbooks seems only to reinforce this separation from the main narrative, as the contributions of women, Hispanic people, and other ethnic minorities become set off in a sidebar, which for most readers becomes code for “feel free to skip this over.”

So, what is the source of this fascination with designating abbreviated periods of time as special moments for recognition? Do these “celebrations” in fact encourage a marginalization of the recognized group for the vast majority of the year? Moreover, is this phenomenon a particularly American one, or do similar celebrations exist elsewhere in the world?

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